UNCF Celebrates its 80th Anniversary with Phenomenal Success, Raising More Than $10M, Supporting HBCUs and Students

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Roy Betts UNCF Communications 240.703.3384 roy.betts@uncf.org

Grammy Award® winners Fantasia Barrino Taylor and Natasha Yvette Williams, Essence Ventures CEO Caroline Wanga, Philanthropists Martha and Bruce Karsh and corporate founders of UNCF among the honorees at 16 spectacular events in March

As UNCF (United Negro College Fund) celebrates its 80th anniversary, fundraising during the organization’s version of March Madness was extraordinarily successful. 

Hosting 16 events including seven within one week, UNCF demonstrated unwavering commitment to its mission, raising more than $10 million for scholarships and financial support to help its 37 member institutions, all historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and their students. 

With a steadfast dedication to advancing educational opportunities and empowering underrepresented students, UNCF has achieved remarkable results in its fundraising efforts throughout its 80-year history. March was an exceptional month, with the organization achieving unprecedented support from donors, partners and the community at large. 

The funds raised during this period will play a vital role in ensuring that HBCUs will continue providing a transformative education to their students. UNCF-member institutions have a long-standing history of nurturing and empowering generations of leaders, and this success will further enhance their ability to deliver excellence in education. 

UNCF President and CEO, Dr. Michael L. Lomax, expressed his gratitude to all those who contributed to the success of this fundraising season. “We are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support we received from donors and corporate partners during our busiest fundraising season. It is especially gratifying this phenomenal achievement occurred as UNCF celebrates its 80th anniversary. 

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to empower our member institutions and all HBCUs as they prepare future generations of students to achieve their college dreams and career success,” said Dr. Lomax. 

UNCF’s version of March Madness 2024 was incredible.  

March 2

New Orleans: UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball
UNCF New Orleans hosted the 11th annual UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball Saturday night, March 2, at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. More than 600 guests representing local corporate supporters, educators, religious leaders and community advocates attended from New Orleans and surrounding Louisiana parishes. Actress, comedian, author and coach, Kim Coles served as mistress of ceremonies.  The event kicked off with the Zulu Tramps and One Shot Brass Band leading the Honorees and VIPs into the event ballroom in true New Orleans style. 

Gifts received helped gross more than $730,000 that included funds raised in the ballroom during the “Fund the Mission and Silent Auction” as well as from presenting sponsor Hyatt Regency New Orleans and other partners including the New Orleans Saints/Pelicans, Entergy, Ochsner Health, Mardi Gras Productions, Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences, Encore and WWL-TV (local CBS affiliate). 

UNCF New Orleans MASKED Award honorees were Stephanie and Ryan Burks, owners of RYCARS Construction, who reminded the audience of the importance of investing in better futures for our students; and Caroline Wanga, president and CEO, Essence Ventures and co-founder, WangaWoman LLC, who encouraged everyone “to use your broken pieces and live life authentically.”  The honorees were also presented the Key to the City by New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.  

Tampa: Inaugural UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball 
On Saturday, March 2, 2024, the glittering lights of the Glazer Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Tampa, FL, illuminated an extraordinary gathering—the Iinaugural UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball. This prestigious event was a resounding success, bringing together a distinguished assembly of over 300 guests.  Among the attendees were elected officials, captains of industry, and steadfast supporters of UNCF. 

Two influential Tampa business leaders lent their prestige to the occasion. Oscar Horton, President and CEO of Sunstate Trucking, Intl., and Bemetra Simmons, CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership, graciously served as honorary co-chairs. Their leadership and support emphasized the importance of investing in the future. 

The spotlight shifted to Troy Taylor, founder and CEO, Coke Florida Beverages. As the recipient of the MASKED Award, Taylor astounded everyone by announcing a $50,000 gift to UNCF Tampa Bay during his acceptance speech, resulting in UNCF Orlando raising $310,000 in unrestricted funds to support its mission. 

Hampton Roads: UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball 
The 7th annual UNCF Hampton Roads Mayors’ Masked Ball took place in Virginia Beach on Saturday, March 2, with over 500 guests in attendance, including a team of Leadership Council and Committee members. Several local mayors and public officials attended including Robert M. “Bobby” Dyer, City of Virginia Beach; Donnie R. Tuck, City of Hampton; Kenneth Cooper Alexander, City of Norfolk; Phillip D. Jones, City of Newport News; Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott; Senator Aaron Rouse; Delegate Alex Asker; several local city council members and officials; and 20 current UNCF Scholars from Virginia colleges and universities. In addition, Richard Lee Snow, regional development director, UNCF Mid-Atlantic Region, delivered welcome remarks, and Dr. Hakim J. Lucas, president, UNCF-member institution Virginia Union University, delivered a passionate HBCU charge. 

Top sponsors included the Geico Philanthropic Foundation, City of Virginia, Dominion Energy, Truist, Riverside Health Systems, Sentara, United Way of South Hampton Roads, News Shipbuilding, Norfolk State University and Virginia Union University. 

The event raised more than $250,000 in sponsorships, auction revenue and donations during the event.  

Milwaukee: UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball 
The Milwaukee Mayor’s Masked Ball was held on Saturday, March 2, 2024, at the historic Hilton Milwaukee City Center, with 400 people in attendance. The annual Mayor’s Masked Ball was Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s third year of hosting. He also served as the ambassador for this prestigious event, along with the Honorary Masked Ball Chair Ophelia T. King of Milwaukee Public Schools, joining Fred Mitchell, vice president, development, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest Divisions, UNCF and Christal Stinson, regional development director, UNCF. Emcees for the evening were WISN12-TV anchor Gerrod Jordan (Howard Univ. alum) and reporter Diana Gutierrez.  

UNCF honored Dr. Joan M. Prince, vice president emerita, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, with the MASKED Award for being a force of action, goodness, compassion and strong UNCF supporter for decades. 

The Corporate Honoree was We Energies Foundation, which supports community and neighborhood development initiatives, health and human services, education and the environment. We Energies is a longstanding UNCF Milwaukee partner. Danielle Bly, vice president, supplier diversity, W.E.C. Energy Group-Business Services, accepted the award on behalf of We Energies.  

More than $200,000 was raised through sponsor support and donor contributions. Lead sponsors included We Energies, Rockwell Automation, Johnson Controls, Inc., and SC Johnson. New partners included Bank of America, Aurora Health and Hilton Milwaukee. NBA team Milwaukee Bucks was among the other event sponsors. 

March 7

Washington, DC: National 80th Anniversary “A Mind Is…”® Gala
UNCF is thrilled to announce the monumental success of its national 80th Anniversary “A Mind Is…”® Gala, which raised $2.2 million in support of its mission to provide access to higher educational opportunities for underrepresented students to go to and through college and to achieve a better future for our nation. 

The gala, held on March 7 in Washington, DC, celebrated the achievements of UNCF and honored exceptional philanthropists and corporate industry leaders, and kicked off the year’s 80th anniversary celebrations. 

The highlight of the evening came when UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax presented the President’s Award to esteemed philanthropists Martha and Bruce Karsh for their outstanding contributions to education, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and their unwavering commitment to empowering young minds.  

Boston, MA: “A Mind Is…” Gala 
March 7 brought resounding success for students of color across New England and the United States. Thanks to the New England UNCF (United Negro College Fund) 80th Anniversary “A Mind Is…” Gala, UNCF raised more than $750,000 to further its mission of supporting historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and helping as many deserving students to get to and through college. The 80th anniversary event not only commemorated UNCF’s rich legacy, but also emphasized its unwavering commitment to building better futures for all.

Each of the evening’s honorees exemplified the importance of transforming the future by investing in the next generation—Bob Rivers, for his commitment to providing community resources inclusive to all; Keon Holmes, for his commitment to ensuring more talented minorities have a lighted pathway to the asset management industry; and Dr. N. Anthony and Robyn Coles for their lifetime commitment to advancing Black educational and economic mobility. More than 300 business and community leaders gathered to help raise funds for HBCUs and provide deserving students in New England and beyond with financial resources to help alleviate the cost of college.  

March 9

Birmingham: UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball
On Saturday, March 9, 2024, UNCF Birmingham held its Mayor’s Masked Ball, hosted by Mayor Randall L. Woodfin, with the event raising over $525,000.  

The event, with 875 guests, was held at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel and emceed by Emmy Award winning journalists at WVTM-TV, Guy Rawlings and Carla Wade.  

Honorees of the MASKED Award included Dudley Reynolds, the former president and chief operating officer, Alagasco; Billy Reid, American fashion designer and founder, Billy Reid, an American Luxury Brand; the Hon. Judge Houston Brown and Mrs. Betty Brown.  

Sponsors for the event included: Presenting Sponsor, Spire Energy; Platinum Sponsors: Alabama Power, The Worship Center, Regions Bank, and Honda. Gold Sponsors included AT&T, ACIPCO, Altec, Birmingham Airport, Birmingham Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Wells Fargo, Mercedes Benz, Shipt, Hudson, PNC, The City of Birmingham, Mayor Randall L. Woodfin and many others.  

March 16

Seattle: “A Mind Is…”® Gala 
The Seattle “A Mind Is …” Gala was an outstanding, record-breaking event raising more than $1 million. The success of this event stemmed from the support of UNCF National Board of Directors member and Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci and Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Costco Wholesale Alison Francis, who served as gala chairpersons and former NBA Championship Coach Lenny Wilkins as this year’s gala co-chairman.  

This year’s event attracted more than 900 guests and was hosted by former  NFL Seattle Seahawks player and best-selling author Jordan Babineaux, recognized five honorees for their commitment to higher education and generous contributions to UNCF: Jim Sinegal, founder and former CEO, Costco Wholesale Corporation (Change Maker of the Year Award); Jack McCullough, founding principal, McCullough Hill Leary (Corporate Citizen of the Year); Jaison Elkins, chairman Muckleshoot Indian Tribe (Corporate Partner of the Year Award); Nate Miles, former vice president, Eli Lilly Corporation (Outstanding Community Commitment Award) and Dr. Brent Jones, Seattle School District superintendent (Outstanding Educational Leader of the Year Award).  

Greenville: UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball 
The UNCF Upstate Mayors’ Masked Ball (Greenville, SC), held Saturday, March 16, 2024, was amazing! 

Imagine the scene: five mayors from across the Upstate, four esteemed member schools represented by staff and students, and 455 excited guests, all gathered to help support HBCUs and students. The event raised over $240,000. The charismatic emcee was Lawrenz Ellman-Sanders, a junior studying Business Administration at Voorhees University, who is also president of the Student Government Association. He commanded the stage and managed the program with finesse and charm. Our MASK Award recipients were Dr. Harold G. Morse, a long-time donor to UNCF and the Denny’s Corporation.  There was also a very special surprise presentation to long-time volunteer and donor, Ruth Richburg, who is 86 years young and says she has about 10 years left of service to UNCF. The evening closed with a dynamic performance by ZAPP – “More Bounce to the Ounce” and guests dancing on the stage.  

March 20

Orlando, FL: Mayors’ Luncheon 
Three hundred guests gathered to support the 21st UNCF Orlando Mayors’ Luncheon. The event commenced with the soul-stirring melodies of The Bethune Cookman Inspirational Gospel Choir. Our mistress of ceremony, Kristin Delgardo, a Hampton graduate and morning anchor for WFTV (the local ABC News affiliate), set the tone for an inspiring gathering. We were honored to have three esteemed local Mayors in attendance: City of Eatonville Mayor Angela Gardner, City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. 

The keynote address was delivered by the spirited Collette V. Smith, the first African American female NFL coach. Ms. Smith shared her journey from UNCF-member Tuskegee University and emphasized the critical role Tuskegee played in her life’s journey. She urged the group to do more to support our students and our UNCF-member schools. 

During the luncheon, UNCF Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer Maurice E. Jenkins, Jr., expressed gratitude to all sponsors, especially the event’s state-wide sponsors: AT&T, JPMorgan Chase, Publix Charities and Wells Fargo, who have supported UNCF for many years.   

Dr. Tommy Dorsey, a long-time community hero and founder of the Orlando Minority Youth Golf Academy, was presented with the 2024 UNCF Champion of Education Award. 

The afternoon event had an overall fundraising total of $119,783. 

March 21 

New York: “A Mind Is…”® Gala 
With 500 guests in attendance, nearly $950,000 was raised to support UNCF’s important work to uplift historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and help advance educational opportunities to ensure that more deserving, talented students reach their fullest potential. 

UNCF presented its “Trailblazer Award” to Essence, which was accepted by Caroline A. Wanga, president and CEO, Essence Ventures; “Leadership Award” to Tony Signore, CEO and managing partner, Taylor Global, founder, Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Scholarship; and “Shirley Chisholm Award” to Fawn Weaver, CEO and founder, Uncle Nearest, Inc., for their steadfast support of HBCUs and commitment to Black educational equity and economic mobility.  

The occasion included special guests Michelle Miller, co-host, “CBS Saturday Morning”; Kim Godwin, president, ABC News; Kevin Liles, chairman and CEO, Elektra Entertainment; DeMarco Morgan, co-anchor, “Good Morning America 3”; New York City Mayor Eric L. Adams; Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO, UNCF; Ed Lewis, co-founder of Essence Magazine and chairman and publisher emeritus of Essence Communications; Dr. Rochelle Ford, president, Dillard University; Dr. Leroy Staggers, president, Morris College; Dr. Reynold Verret, president, Xavier University of Louisiana; and Nettie Washington Douglass and Kenneth Morris Jr., direct descendants of Frederick Douglass and co-founders of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. The evening also featured a stirring rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, sung by Natasha Yvette Williams, Tony®-nominated, Grammy® award-winning actress; and lively entertainment by the music group WanMor. 

March 22 

Jacksonville, FL: Mayor’s Masked Ball 
The Third annual Jacksonville Mayor’s Masked Ball dazzled the crowd of nearly 400 guests with a standout program that featured inspiring stories from Edward Waters students Kimberly Holland and Daiton Pass to a collective pat on the back led by none other than President in Residence, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole.  Raising over $300,000, the event honored the immeasurable Mr. Cleve Warren and highlighted the record enrollment at Edward Waters by President A. Zachary Faison Jr.  This year’s ball was the first led by new Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan,; her pointed and measured words about the work Jacksonville must do to provide more opportunities to Black and Brown students was lauded.  Sponsors CSX, Florida Blue, Hyatt Regency Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Jaguars were just a few to support a great evening and commit to supporting again next year.  Finally, the evening was concluded with music from the Bold City Classics! 

March 23 

Philadelphia, PA: Mayor’s Masked Ball 
The room had a different level of excitement as Philadelphia prepared for its first Mayor’s Masked Ball under new Mayor Cherelle L. Parker, the first woman and 100th mayor of the City of Philadelphia.  The overall event and décor highlighted UNCF’s 80th anniversary. More than 800 guests enjoyed the entertainment of the KIPP High School Jazz Ensemble and The Smooth Jazz Show. Chelsea Green and The Green Project during dinner. Finally, the event ended with dancing with DJ Touchtone, the world’s #1 Blind DJ.  The overall event and decor highlighted UNCF’s 80th anniversary. 

Honorees included Ric Harris, president and general manager, NBCUniversal; The Philadelphia Orchestra | Ensemble Arts (Community Champion); and the second recipient of the AYLA (Advancing Young Leaders Award); and David Gould, chief diversity and inclusion officer, Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment). Twelve UNCF Scholars graced the stage while Kyra Williams, a student in the last Gates Millenium Scholarship Program Cohort, gave the student address. The evening raised $794,000. 

Charlotte, NC: Mayor’s Masked Ball 
The 10th anniversary Charlotte Mayor’s Masked Ball, presented by Lowe’s, had over 60 sponsors and 1,050 guests who came together for the celebration and fundraising to support UNCF’s mission. The event raised a total of $1,110,870, including funds raised during the night from the raffle and paddle raise.  Additional revenue was presented for the Gantt-McColl Scholarship and Kieth and Serena Cockrell Scholarship, bringing the grand total for the evening to $1,486,120. 

Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC) was in attendance as well as a host of other elected officials from across the state.  

Fantasia Barrino Taylor, Grammy Award® winning singer, songwriter and actress received the Masked Lifetime Achievement Award, and Derrick Jones aka DJ D-Nice, artist, philanthropist, and DJ, received the MASKED Hero Award; Fred Whitfield, immediate past president and vice chairman of the Charlotte Hornets, received the MASKED Award; and David and Nicole Tepper, owners of the Carolina Panthers and Charotte FC, received the MASKED Award.  

Columbus Gala attendees on the red carpetColumbus, GA: Mayor’s Masked Ball
The Columbus UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball, presented by Chick-fil-A, was a huge success. The event raised $220,000 with 930 guests attending this evening of celebration and fundraising.

The event was hosted by Mayor Skip Henderson and former State Representative Calvin Smyre. This year’s MASKED Award honorees were Greg and Cheryl Davis, owners of Davis Broadcasting, and the honorable Arthur (Sue) Smith, chief superior court judge of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.

A performance onstage at the Columbus galaIn attendance were Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA), State Senator Ed Harbison, State Representatives Carolyn Hugley and Teddy Reese, as well as a host of other dignitaries from across the state. Member school president, UNCF-member Lane College’s President Dr. Logan Hampton, was also in attendance.

UNCF-member Tuskegee University’s student, Lemmon Turner, received a standing ovation for his passionate testimony about his journey from homelessness to being a UNCF scholarship recipient and honor student. He was followed by Tuskegee University alum, Rev. Johhny Flakes, who made a passionate Fund the Mission appeal, raising over $10,000 from the floor. 

San Francisco, CA: “A Mind Is…” Gala
UNCF’s San Francisco Area Office and National Office on STEM Initiatives hosted the 12th annual IRISE STEM Empowerment Week and 80th Anniversary “A Mind Is…” Gala, which generated $500,000 in unrestricted gifts and a $500,000 legacy gift to support our nation’s HBCUs and their students.

Dr. Chad Womack, vice president, STEM program and initiatives, UNCF, and his team were recognized for coordinating 100 computer science and engineering students and faculty from the greater HBCU network to participate in a series of sponsored professional development activities and activations focused on tech entrepreneurship, computer science technology, and game development from San Francisco corporate partners.

The week concluded with the gala featuring a return of evening host, actress, producer and philanthropist and friend of UNCF, Dawnn Lewis. This year’s honorees were noted Bay Area businessman, Larry Tripplett, a legacy UNCF donor, and the past CEO, Northern California McDonalds Operators; and Brian Tippens, SVP, chief social impact officer, received the award on behalf of CISCO as Corporation of the Year.

Corporate sponsors included national partners Alaska Airlines and Chevron, local partners Blue Shield of California, LAM Research, Bank of America, Towne Ford, Kaiser Permanente, Wells Fargo, PG&E, Golden State Warriors, Valley Water, Blue World Travel, Brass Lion Entertainment, Monterey Jazz, SAP, UPS, Cisco, Black Nurses Association and a host of others. 


About UNCF

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. While totaling only 3% of all colleges and universities, UNCF institutions and other historically Black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 15% of bachelor’s degrees, 5% of master’s degrees, 10% of doctoral degrees and 19% of all STEM degrees earned by Black students in higher education. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 50,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at UNCF.org or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF